If you aren’t following bail reform, you may not be aware that accompanying the attempt to eliminate bail across the country is the touting of “risk assessment tools” to determine who should be detained on bail before trial.
The tool’s principal developer, (former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram), has said she introduced “rigorous statistical analysis” to the process in order to “moneyball criminal justice.”
Editor’s Note: 38 jurisdictions currently use the tooldeveloped by the Arnold Foundation.
However, the use of this tool has led to the wholesale release of violent criminals—and tragedy.
Three recent examples in New Mexico, New Jersey and San Francisco illustrate my point.
A story published by the conservative website The Daily Wire said the assessment tool has led to virtually every defendant arrested in New Mexico for a violent crime being released without bail.
The story quoted a report from Albuquerque NBC affiliate KOB4, saying, “Even with the highest rate of failing to appear in court and the highest rate of new criminal activity for a defendant, the tool still recommends that person[s] be released on their own recognizance unless the prosecutors have filed for preventative detention.”
In New Jersey, according to the Washington Post, the tool determined that a man jailed for illegally possessing a gun was not a danger and recommended his release. Days later, that man hunted down a rival and shot at him 22 times, killing him. The family of the victim is now suing the Arnold Foundation, amongst others, for the death.
In San Francisco, the online website SFGate reported that a man suspected of murder was released days earlier after being arrested for possession of two guns. According to the website, the judge, relying on the assessment tool, rejected the District Attorney’s office recommendation that the man be kept in jail on a probation violation.
A spokesman for the DA’s office was quoted as saying the use of the tool has caused “many instances of contention.”
He continued: “As it relates to this case along with many other cases, we have a disagreement with how that risk assessment is being calculated. They suggested release with certain conditions, and the judge carried out that recommendation and this defendant was released.”
The Arnold Foundation argues that its tool is needed because “failing to appropriately determine the level of risk that a defendant poses impacts future crime and violence, and carries enormous costs–both human and financial.”
The examples in New Mexico, New Jersey and San Francisco certainly attest to the truth of that statement.